Passage: Philip Roth and Robert Indiana


This week we saw the passing of two American originals: the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Philip Roth, and the pop artist renowned for "Love," Robert Indiana.

CBS News

It happened this past week – the loss of two very different American originals.

Phillip Roth
was one of the most prolific novelists of our time.

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Roth revisited his boyhood home a few years ago with Rita Braver. In his more than two dozen books, the mostly-Jewish neighborhood of his youth looms large:

"Well, those are the people I knew," he told Braver. "If I grew up in Minneapolis, I would've written about the people in Minneapolis. But I grew up in the southwest corner of Newark, New Jersey. And they were mostly Jews."

"Goodbye, Columbus," his first collection of stories, won a National Book Award in 1960.

His 1969 novel "Portnoy's Complaint" shocked many because of its frank portrayal of sex, a recurring theme in his work that he was quick to defend:

"Sex is important," he said. "And sex plays a big part in people's lives. Plays a huge part in their imaginations. And therefore, it's a subject for writing."

From 2010: A rare look at author Philip Roth

He kept writing novels well into his late 70s – and at his last public reading in 2014, Roth narrated an excerpt from "Sabbath's Theater," a mordant meditation on life and - perhaps as important - death: "Nobody beloved gets out alive."

Phillip Roth was 85

Artist Robert Indiana. CBS News

"Love has been the best thing that ever happened to me, and the worst thing," said artist Robert Indiana, who put his own unique slant on the ultimate four-letter word.

"Most people know about love, and don't even know that Robert Indiana did 'Love.'"

Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana in 1928, he was a struggling young New York City artist when a nod to his home state turned his whole life around, as he told Martha Teichner back in 2004:

"The best thing I ever did was change my name," he said. "Robert Clark really wasn't a terribly interesting person."

"So, what did Robert Indiana allow you to be?" Teichner asked.

"It's a mask. He who assumes another name becomes a new person."

Eventually setting up shop in the former Odd Fellows Hall in Vinalhaven, Maine, Robert Indiana created a huge and varied body of work.  But he always knew what he'd be remembered for:

"I have to face it; I know where I am stuck. It's going to be Indiana and 'Love' for the rest of time."

Teichner asked, "Is that such a bad thing?"

"No, not bad at all. I'm very pleased."

Robert Indiana was 89.

Story produced by Justin Hayter.